<<Click here to view excerpts from Black Diamond 2>>
Dale Sherman, author of the Black Diamond series of books, has kindly given KISSin' UK this exclusive interview. Many thanks to Dale for taking time out to answer the questions.
1. What are you up to now that Black Diamond 1 & 2 are out of
the way, is there a third instalment in the works?
A: There was, and I had originally planned on starting it during the middle of last year. BLACK DIAMOND 3 was going to be a book with just interviews with people associated with the band over the years. I even got a few interview done with people like Kenny Kerner, Bob Kulick, Bruce Kulick and Sean Delaney (although that one was actually done by a friend) before I decided to pull the plug on the project for the time being.
The reasons were several, but there were three big ones: one, I found that I needed more time to finish work on a reference book I was doing about Alice Cooper; two, there is a bit of a glut in KISS books out there right now and I thought it might be best to wait awhile until there would be more demand for a book like the one I have planned; and, 3) I just felt a bit burnt-out. After spending eight years getting the two books ready, I found that I really wanted to spend some time writing about some other things for a time. After I get a few other projects off my chest, I'll probably come back to the project. Hopefully, it will mean that I will find some fresh approach to it and come up with something everyone will enjoy.
BTW, the Alice Cooper book should be out by April 1999 (just about the same time as Rhino is releasing a 4-CD box-set for Alice) by the same publisher. If you're a fan, I hope you can pick it up. After that, I plan on taking a break to go after my Master degree in Business. I am planning on offering the KISS novel I have written to the band for consideration to be released. We'll see about that, though; and I'm not holding my breath on that one.
2. Can you give us any information on the UK KISS documentary 'They Walk Among Us'? How did you come about to getting involved with it?
A: Well, I haven't see the finished film yet myself, and I don't want to take away too much from the people who made it. I can tell you that it was a project put together by filmmaker Jim Heneghan, who had been researching the film for several years. I met up with Jim at the 1997 New York KISS convention where I happened to be promoting the release of BLACK DIAMOND 1. After talking for awhile, he asked if I would be willing to do an interview with him for the documentary , and I said yes.
The movie is about KISS fans and their dedication to the band. From the questions Jim asked me, I think it would be a fascinating film. I really do hope to see it soon! As to how much I'm in it though, I have no idea. I just hope I don't look like a jerk. :-)
(Opps, I can already hear the people say, "Too late.")
3. Has your KISS past ever taken you to the UK? If so do you have any stories you'd like to share? Your book isn't a widely available in the UK as it is in the States, where can UK fans get hold of a copy?
A: I wish it had. I've always wanted to visit the UK, but have never had the chance. I am an old fan of British television that is available over here (if you don't believe me, ask me anything about DR. WHO or some of the comedy shows . . . in fact, I would love to write a book about the old DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE series, but that's another topic for another time). Would love to visit, and if anyone needed a guest at a KISS con and wanted to pay for the flight, I would be over there in a shot!
As to the availability of the books in the UK, I do find that a bit strange. I've known of more people in places like Austria, France, Germany and even Russia that have found the book in stores than have been able to find it in the UK. It's ironic as well, as my publisher is located in London, but the book seems to be easier to find over here in the US than there for some odd reason.
That reminds me of the funny feeling I got when I first saw the book in a bookstore in my hometown. I thought it was very ironic to write the book here in the States, get it published overseas and find it in my local bookstore as an import item. Especially as the store advertised is as a "European bestseller" when it was written not more than five miles from the store. Pretty funny.
I say if fans have trouble finding it, you can always go to my publisher website at www.cgpublishing.com, and you can order it directly from the London office listed there. Paul, I believe you also have a link on your page so that people can order directly online as well. [Yup, both books are now available direct from the UK in the Online KISS Shop for about £12 each- Paul]
For those in the States or Canada, most bookstore-chains carry at least one of the two books. Try Waldenbooks, Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Tower Records, B. Dalton, besides some independent record and bookstores. I believe Virgin was also carrying it for a time, but I can't be sure about that. Hope that helps.
4. Black Diamond 2 is a very concise guide to KISS releases, how on earth do you even start to put such a project together? Was there a lot of material that had to be left out?
A: It was not easy, but you have to start somewhere. One of my frustrations over the years as a fan was that I knew there were many variations to KISS albums and singles, yet there was really no place to find out about them. General rock album guides don't go into the details that we as fans want to know, and there certainly were not any KISS books coming out attempting to do so either.
I have always looked at some of the Beatles books that have come out over the years and thought, "why can't someone do something like that for a band like KISS." Which is where the idea for the second book came into play.
I first started with the US discography, since it was going to be the easiest to put together (there is a lot of available information gathered about these releases than most other countries). I then started asking fans in other countries to help putting material together for a worldwide view of the band. Russ Humphreys of the excellent (and sadly missed) fanzine, KISS RENEGADES, helped out tremendously with the UK discography; my friend Danny Best in Australia helped out a lot there; and Tito Poza and Shari Custer-Poza were the number one people to get info about the Japanese releases. Many others helped as well. In fact, in asking for assistance, I only ever ran into a couple of fans that refused to help. Shows you the type of friendship that develops between KISS fans, I think.
As to material being left out -- yes, there were certain things that I had to leave by the wayside. I really wanted to have a complete concert date listing in the book, but I soon found that impossible to really do to the level that I wanted and still keep the book within a realistic page-limit (BD2 is 400 pages long as it is). I also decided to not deal with radio interview discs and interview albums and/or CDs as I felt the interest by fans for these was too limited.
Most of all, I'm sure there are plenty of countries that were missed, having to limit the text to the UK, US, Japan and Australia. Still, I hope that BD2 is a start and will interest fans into digging deeper into the odd albums and collectibles. If that happens, then I have accomplished what I set out to do.
5. Did you use the internet as a source of information for any of the books?
A: That's one of the reason why the books took eight years to write. I started back in 1989 and did not get my first computer until after the first book was ready to go to print. So all the research was done by going to libraries and bugging fans left and right for additional help.
To show the difference, I decided to start work on an Alice Cooper reference book in February 1998 and, thanks to the internet and the almost-instance access to fans around the world, I was able to have a manuscript ready within a year. Amazing. If I could have had such access when working on the KISS books it would have saved me a lot of time in research.
6. How much of the releases detailed in Black Diamond 2 do you own yourself? Are you still as much an avid KISS collector as you were in the beginning?
A: Nearly all the pictures you see in BD2 are things from my collection. I also have a lot of other material that I couldn't print for one reason or another. As a fan, I've always been a big record collector, but I never got into the puzzles and games. Just never really interest me, which is the main reason why I dealt strictly with albums, videos and books in BD2 (besides there already being a book out there that covers such material).
I think as collectors, most people reach a pinnicle with the buying and then taper off until they find something new to collect. I still get the new albums when they appear (especially if a vinyl edition is released), but that's about it anymore. Still, I don't see myself getting rid of my collection anytime soon.
7. Have you met up with any members of the band since completing the Black Diamond series? Do you know if they have read a copy of either books?
I sent copies of both books to all of the band members that I could locate and to Eric Carr's family. The only people I did not send copies to were Mark Norton (aka St. John) and Vinnie as I had no way of knowing for sure if they would actually get anything I sent to the addresses I had.
Eric's family seemed very enthusiastic about the books, especially as there is a lot of material about Eric in them (including the interview-CD that comes with the first book). Since then, I have kept in touch with them and I can only hope their determination to get Eric's Rock-Heads project off the ground will come true some day.
Bruce Kulick seemed to like the books and has told me so. Bob Kulick read the first one and disagreed with some things I had to say (even though I had two sources for the story I told in BD1 about Ace's audition for KISS, he insists that it did not happen that way; and I do not have any reason to doubt him, so I would probably change that story a bit if I every revise BD1), still I think he was happy that the book focused on some people outside of the main four members.
Eric Singer seemed to be happy with the book as well, and I have heard good comments from people like Kenny Kerner and Stan Penridge. In fact, I hear more good things from people that have worked with the band over the years than anyone else. Both Penridge and Bill Starkey (the creator of the KISS Army) both told me that it was the first book about KISS they ever read thattold the TRUE story about the band. That was very flattering.
As to the original members of KISS, I have only heard from Gene so far. He told me that he wasn't thrilled with all the unauthorised KISS books coming out, but he thought my two books were cool. That was an interesting phone call, to say the least.
8. What are your thoughts on the Psycho Circus album? Have you caught the Psycho Circus tour yet?
A: I like the new album in general, but I wish there would have been a bit more of a push in giving both Peter and Ace room to show their progress as musicians. I know some people will laugh at that, but I really think both Peter and Ace pulled off some good material on their solo projects over the years. The same holds true with Gene and Paul. I would have enjoyed the album a bit more if I felt that it was four guys locked in a room, thrashing out some tunes that they wanted to hear instead of songs that they felt we as fans wanted to hear.
If you get a chance, certainly go see the band on this tour. It's always a good show, although there is a bit too much rehash from the previous tour. I would have enjoyed some different material and even some of the stuff from the 80s that would have worked well with the makeup ("I Love It Loud," "Hide Your Heart," "Rock Soldiers," etc.). Yet, even a mediocre KISS concert is still ten-times better than most other shows.
9. Do you follow the projects of ex-KISS members (eg Bruce's Union album & Eric's ESP)?
A: Yes. I follow all the former and current band members. In fact, one of the reasons for the first BD book was that I thought there wasn't enough information out there for fans about the members that were not currently with the band. I felt these individuals ALL shaped KISS when they were in the band, and their solo careers were important to understand if one was to understand the musical direction of KISS through the years.
Love the Union album and hope that the band has continued success. Actually saw Eric last summer when he played with Alice Cooper in Columbus, Ohio. Haven't gotten the ESP album yet, though.
10. Black Diamond comes packaged with an excellent Eric Carr interview, Eric comes across as a very easy and likeable person to interview - was this the case?. Do you have more gems like this for possible future release?
A: He was the sweetest guy in the world. It was the first interview I had ever done and being in the KISS Company offices in downtown Manhatten was very intimidating (especially as we did the interview in Gene's office). I was so concern that the tape-recorder I had would not work that I borrowed one from a friend, and it almost immediately died on me when I was interviewing Eric. Most people would have said, "oh, well, too bad" and shown me the door. Eric, however, tried to fix the recorder and, when it was obvious that it was never going to work, told me to come back the next day to finish the interview.
Another example of his attitude with fans was after the interview was over and Eric started giving me signed albums, posters, CD, and singles to take home with me. The feeling I got from him was that he was just as excited about giving the stuff away as a fan would be in getting it.
In all the years since then, I have only heard of one instance of someone saying something bad about Eric. He was the one band member that really tried to connect with fans and enjoyed being around them. I think that once he passed on, the band never quite recovered on both a professional level or on a personal level with the fans. At least until the Reunion, that is.
BTW, for fans wondering after listening to the CD, the first 20 minutes of the CD is taken from the part of the interview done on the uncooperative recorder, which is why both Eric and I sound a bit odd. I still have about two and a half hours left of the interview that has never been released, and I'm still not sure what I might do with it eventually. There was talk about releasing another CD with BD2, but the size of BD2 along with a CD would have jacked the price up too much and we decided to wait.
11 Both books have very prominent covers (people always glance twice when I'm reading them at work!), were they your idea?
A: Actually, no. At the time I had sent off the manuscripts for both books to my publisher, I got a call from them asking what we should stick on the cover. I would have assumed they would have come up with something themselves, but they wanted my ideas.
Later, my wife and I went to visit a couple we knew. Kevin Workman had been taking some creative photography classes and shot a photo of his wife, Haley, that he thought would work for the cover of the book. I was surprised at first (after all, who expects to get pictures like that handed to them of a friend's wife?), but thought I would go ahead and send it in. My publisher decided to use it, and when the second book was going to print, I thought it would be best to use a similar photo for the second book as well. So, Kevin and Haley did the second one just for the cover of BD2.
Incidentally, the cover of BD1 is actually a black and white photo that was colorized. The star was blackened in a bit as well, or else we would have had a cover that would have exposed more than intended.
12. Are you a regular visitor of any KISS websites? Which are your favourites? Have you ever visited KISSin' UK?
Well, I do some material occasionally for the KISS Asylum website, including an on-line KISS novel that I had started about 15 years ago and never finished until now.
I try to avoid looking at too many sites as I could end up all day on the computer, but I probably check out KISS Asylum and KISS Freaks the most, and then some other sites every now and then. I certainly DO look at KISSin' UK as I love finding out what fans think about the band in other countries beside my own. I think you do a very good job, especially -- as you have said yourself on the site -- it is not easy to get material together in a country that only has limited interest in the band. Good work.
13. Finally do you have other information you'd like to share with UK fans?
A: As to the books, I hope UK fans will enjoy them as much as fans from other parts of the world have over the past year and a half. If nothing else, I hope that the books get fans to see the band as a group of individuals that created some great music both inside and outside the band.
In general though, I like to leave fans with this thought: KISS is a band that has always pushed forward the idea of not only being an individual, but for fighting for what you want to make true in your life. I've always wanted to be a writer and KISS was a way for me to achieve that goal. So, believe that they say -- you can make your dreams come true if you are willing to work and fight for them.
Back To Contents
Drop me (Paul Finn) an E-mail.